This past weekend, I got the opportunity to attend the 6th annual VidCon in Anaheim. Even though I was only able to take part in the Community-wide events (as opposed to the Creator and Industry exclusive events), I can still say that I learned a lot about the art of vlogging, and also gained the motivation I needed to really start taking my own YouTube journey more seriously.
For those who aren’t as well-versed in the YouTube and online video realm, every year, John and Hank Green (otherwise known as Vlogbrothers on YouTube) host an annual convention in which content creators and fans of online video gather together in one space and gain more insight into the art of online video, as well as meet their favorite online videographers. Prior to attending the convention, I was mostly expecting to share the same airspace as my favorite YouTubers, buy some merchandise, and attend a few panels hosted by online content creators. I definitely got what I expected, but I also gained so much more.
I was already aware of the ever-growing universe of YouTube, and that some of its most successful content creators were venturing off outside the internet to pursue other venues. Being someone who is on the YouTube website on a daily basis, I had an idea of how large of a following some of these content creators have, every now and then glancing at the view count of the videos I watch, and taking note of the number of subscribers each YouTuber has (some being in the millions). At VidCon, these numbers came to life in the form of passionate (and loud) young individuals. Once I got past the irateness that came from weaving my way around large huddles of screaming fangirls, I started to see a much bigger picture.
When fans of Hollywood celebrities get starstruck at the sight of their favorite famous people, it’s because that star is known by the majority of the public, their work and personal lives displayed for all to see. The Hollywood celebrities are famous because they are seen everywhere, and are the kryptonite to the mainstream eye. When fans are within the same space of their favorite YouTubers, their screams and yells and enthusiasm come from a much more personal place than “I saw your movie” or “I listened to your song.” YouTube fans feel a connection to those who make online video because there is something much more personal about sitting in front of a computer by yourself listening to what these individuals have to say on a weekly (and for some, daily) basis. These videos serve as a window into their own personal lives – no script, no fancy movie magic; just the subject and their camera. Because of the minimal production that goes into making online video, there is something incredibly personal and intimate about watching the finished product. You feel more than just entertained – you feel like you’ve just made a new friend. So when these fans see someone like Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, or Grace Helbig, it’s because their videos have somehow impacted their lives in a much deeper way than a Hollywood film ever will, and given the demographic and age range of the audience, this is definitely not a bad thing.
It would be unfair to say that mainstream Hollywood isn’t as impactful or important as the YouTube community, especially since YouTube content creators are slowly making their way into mainstream media. It would also be unfair to say that one is more important or “better” than the other. I, myself, am a consumer of both realms and can appreciate what either one has to offer. But if you ask any parent of a preteen or young teenager, more and more individuals of the millennial generation are flocking towards media outlets like YouTube and Vine instead of the nearest movie theater or television screen. Through these online personalities, kids everywhere are finding communities that foster similar interests and passions, a proven difficult task for many people that age. What’s more, the YouTube audience is being exposed to more important and pressing issues that are currently going on around the world, and are becoming proactive in making the world a better place, rather than focusing on pipe dreams of fame – something that seems to be promoted to that demographic nowadays (*side eyes Disney*). This past year, Tyler Oakley and his viewers together raised over half a million dollars for The Trevor Project, an organization focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ teens. Several months before that, Connor Franta and his viewers raised almost a quarter of a million dollars for The Thirst Project, a movement to build wells in villages in third world countries to provide clean drinking water to those who would otherwise have no access to it. Raising awareness to various charities and issues is just one of the many ways that online personalities are spearheading the movement to make the world a better place.
VidCon is not just a way for people to meet their favorite YouTubers, but also serves as an outlet for those who are interested in internet video and how to be successful doing it. Having a small and budding YouTube channel myself, seeing the impact that the already existing YouTubers have on society and future generations has definitely motivated me to make more content for my channel on a regular basis. Going to VidCon last weekend gave me the extra motivation that I needed to explore other creative outlets, and actively pursue them instead of sitting around daydreaming about them. Maybe this new creative venture that I’m embarking on will return good results, or maybe it will be one of those “I tried and I failed” situations. Either way, I’m excited to see where this takes me, and where I am with it a year from now when I return to VidCon.